I read this article which chronicles a High School Learning Coach's two-day shadowing of a student. Here are my thoughts about how her experience compares to my own experience and my personal philosophy.
My school seems somewhat like the school described the story. The story also gave me a couple ideas on how I can improve students learning with some techniques that I would not have otherwise thought of. As in the story, my school site has blocks. Blocks can seem like forever. I do not fault students for getting restless, bored, and exhausted from sitting all day. I hadn't considered the educational benefit that might be provided by allowing students the opportunity to stand up and stretch. This was something I took from the article that I know I can incorporate into my planning immediately. I don't know that I would have basketball hoop. I feel like that would be distracting for students. I do however, agree with the author's position that we should somehow wind down the class near the end of the period, rather than trying to continue direct instruction right up to the bell. Like it or not, most students have checked out within five or so minutes of the bell ringing. The author mentions that in the school she was at, the students don't talk much. It would surprise me to learn if this was because they weren't provided the opportunity to talk. In many of my classes, students do not want to speak. I often pose questions to the class and no one raises their hand. That is one way in that I think my school site is different than her's. Also, there is not a lot of direct instruction either. I keep my direct instruction to less than 30 minutes for students because they often get bored. It sounds like the author's situation is different. Lastly, her admission of using sarcasm in her class both jibes with my current experience and my personal beliefs. It's reprehensible, I think, for a teacher to roll his/her eyes at a student's question, no matter how many times he/she has repeated his/herself. In all, I found a couple good pointers from this article. I came across some ideas that fit well with my personal philosophy -- not lecture driven, for example -- and a few that didn't. I've not taught in a school using a traditional, six-period day, so I'm not sure how it compares to a block schedule. For now, I like the blocks, as long as students get the chance to stretch and break up the instruction with discussion and movement.